You want to buy your first saxophone, but feel overwhelmed with the choice? Understandably so. When buying a saxophone, a lot needs to be considered. New or used instrument? Which tuning? Which material? Which budget? All these things need to be well thought out before buying. After all, the instrument should bring joy and learning success for years to come. We have some tips for you on what to look for when buying:
The right pitch
There are a total of 12 types of saxophone, all of which differ in pitch. However, not all of them are used equally often. Only a fraction are regularly played by amateur musicians. When choosing the right saxophone, you should therefore first think about which pitch you would like to play. The larger the saxophone, the lower the pitch. While the soprano saxophone, which plays rather high notes, measures just 65cm, the bass saxophone has a tube length of over 2 metres. Deciding on the right pitch is therefore not necessarily just a matter of aesthetics: for young players in particular, a particularly large saxophone is not to be recommended. It is difficult to handle and unsuitable for beginners. Most players start with an alto saxophone. It is tuned in Eb and easy to handle even for children’s hands. It is also a beginner-friendly model in terms of lung volume and embouchure.
Finding the right pitch is not only a matter of personal preference. Since the construction methods are also different, you should choose a model that suits your size and learning level.
Saxophones today are usually made of brass. Rarely, the body is made of softer materials, such as solid silver, to produce a softer tone. To protect the surface, the instruments are often lacquered. There is a wide choice here: from clear lacquer to gold lacquer to two-tone lacquer finishes, everything is available. However, the surface treatment has no influence on the sound of your instrument. It is only a matter of appearance. So you are free to decide what you like best.
With a few exceptions, saxophones are made of brass. Only the lacquer finish differs. But since it has no influence on the sound, the question of the material is a matter of individual preference.
Mouthpiece and neck
As a rule, you will buy your saxophone with mouthpiece and neck. However, they can also be exchanged later and have a great influence on the sound. Therefore, you should think about the sound you are aiming for and which mouthpiece/ neck suits you best before you buy. To find out, you should try out as much as possible. Get advice and test different mouthpieces, necks and also different combinations. This is the only way to get a feeling for what you like and what really suits you. We have some tips for you that can help you:
The neck connects the body of the saxophone to the mouthpiece. It can be straight, bent at a 90 degree angle or curved with a recognisable S-curve. The bows have a different sound and are usually adapted to a certain construction. So you can’t change the neck at random, you have to make sure that the bow and the body fit together. In contrast to the body, the necks are made of different materials. This also influences the sound.
When testing the neck, you should make sure that all notes have a clean, precise response and a full sound. The intonation should be stable all along the line.
The sound of a mouthpiece changes with its player. This is due to the physiognomic characteristics of the individual player. Therefore, here too, it is a matter of trying and testing! This is the only way to find out which mouthpiece best suits you and your own unique sound.
The various mouthpieces differ in terms of the path opening, i.e. the distance from reed to mouthpiece tip, and the path length, i.e. the angle of the opening. A small orifice is generally easier to control. A large orifice offers more variation: For example, notes can be pulled or the volume can be varied more easily. The length of the lane affects the embouchure. The longer the lane, the shorter the embouchure. The shorter the length, the weaker the embouchure, but the sound is also somewhat thinner. Mouthpieces are also made of different materials. You can choose from wood, rubber, plastic or metal, for example. Whether the material of the mouthpiece has an effect on the sound is, however, controversial.
The mouthpiece is only complete with the reed. Here the strength is particularly important: a strong reed is more difficult to play, a softer reed makes playing easier. Beginners should start with a soft reed and venture into stronger reeds as their skills grow.
The length and opening of the mouthpiece are important factors for the sound. The choice of the right reed also goes hand in hand with this. Try out different combinations and see which one suits you best!
Certainly one of the less beautiful, but all the more important topics when you want to buy a saxophone is the budget: Especially as a beginner, the inhibition to invest in a good instrument may be great. Many think that investing in a good instrument can wait until you make progress in learning the saxophone and are sure you want to continue the hobby. While this is understandable, it is unfortunately still a mistake. Because if you learn on a bad instrument, you may get into the habit of making mistakes that are difficult or impossible to correct later. Especially the ear has to be trained at the beginning to get a feeling for the playing. This can be very difficult with an unbalanced instrument.
It is therefore worthwhile to purchase a high-quality instrument right at the beginning in order to learn to play properly. However, this does not necessarily mean that learning success depends on a high investment. There is a large selection of saxophones. Startone in particular offers a selection of inexpensive, but still high-quality models especially for beginners. Here you can get a good beginner’s model for as little as 250£*. Higher-priced models cost up to 2,000£*. If you are not yet sure whether the saxophone is really the right instrument for you, you can also opt for a hire purchase.
Especially in the beginning it is important to have a high quality instrument to develop the right playing and listening technique. Take this into account in your budget.
Buying a Saxophone: Purchase, lease-purchase or secondhand
Once you are sure what requirements your saxophone has to meet, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Now you have to think about where and how you want to buy the saxophone. There are three possibilities:
- Purchase: If you decide to make a normal purchase, it is best to go to a music shop where you can get personal advice. Here you can often test different instruments. You pay on the spot and then own your first saxophone.
- Lease-purchase: The option of lease purchase is popular. You initially rent the instrument from the music dealer or your music school. If you decide to keep the instrument, the rent paid so far is considered a down payment on the purchase price and you only have to pay the remaining amount. This choice is perfect if you’re not quite sure about the model you’ve chosen or if you’re generally unsure whether you want to stick with playing the saxophone. It also spares you from a high down payment – so you can get started without a big budget.
- Secondhand: Last but not least, there is the possibility to buy a used saxophone. This way you can keep the investment costs low without having to enter into a rental contract. In addition, the second-hand market also offers models that may no longer be produced. Keep in mind, however, that used instruments should be checked carefully. Otherwise you might get a bargain, but have to spend more money on expensive repairs. Therefore, it is best to take an expert with you when buying a second-hand instrument, for example your saxophone teacher.
Lease-purchase is a good option for those who are not yet sure about their hobby or the instrument they have chosen and want to test it first. The second-hand market also offers a good selection, but the instrument should be checked carefully before buying.
What do I have to consider when buying a used saxophone?
The prices for new bass saxophones, for example, quickly rise into the five-digit range. A good alternative is therefore to buy second-hand. Here you can get a good instrument for a fraction of the price of a new one. It is often worth looking at an alto saxophone to see if you can find a good instrument for little money. However, if you have little experience with saxophones, you can ask your teacher if they are willing to accompany you and advise you on the purchase. However, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
FAQ: Buying a saxophone
The price of a saxophone depends strongly on the material and the workmanship. The Startone brand offers solid alto saxophones from around 250£*. Brands like Yamaha or Jupiter start at around 1,000£*.
It is not possible to define a “best” saxophone brand, as all saxophones serve different needs. However, popular brands are, for example, Startone in the low-price sector as well as Yamaha, Buffet Crampon and Thomann.